WMU News

New book chronicles Cold War America

Feb. 21, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- It's a story of numbers. That's the opinion of Dr. Ross Gregory, Western Michigan University professor of history, when talking about his recently released reference book, "Cold War America, 1946-1990," published by Facts on File Inc.

"I'm almost tempted to say there was too much to learn when researching this period," says Gregory. "The acquisition of knowledge due to educational and technological change was remarkable."

The book chronicles all segments of American society, from economics, weather, communication and government to sports and religion. It has entries on all 50 states, 40 biographical sketches and dozens of essays on the period, as well as excerpts from such historical documents as John F. Kennedy's inaugural address.

Gregory sees the book's theme as the change in the country's size--in terms of both raw numbers and economic power. From 1946 the country went from a population of 140 million with a gross domestic product of $212 billion to a population of 252 million and a GDP of $5.5 trillion by 1990.

"I would also cite 1970 as a watershed year in terms of the country's growth in diversity," he says. "From that point on, much more attention was given to issues of race, gender and ethnicity,"

But it is the little stories of which he is most proud. In the book, he delved into such topics as the 1960s domination of Volkswagen in the foreign car market and America's love for pizza.

"I would argue it's the most significant new food in the last half century, considering most people hadn't heard of it in the 1950s," he notes. "We now have more pizza franchises than all other fast-food franchises in the country."

A WMU faculty member since 1966, Gregory teaches history with an emphasis in 20th-century American history. He completed his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Indiana University. He is a past winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize given by the Organization of American Historians and the author of numerous articles and books, including "American 1941: A Nation at the Crossroads" and "The Origins of the American Intervention in the First World War."

"Cold War America" is 688 pages in hardcover and includes 109 black-and-white photographs and illustrations and eight maps. It is part of the Almanacs of American Life series and is available through the Facts on File Web site at <www.factsonfile.com>.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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